Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vegan MoFo! Day 5: Experimentation with the Mystery Fruits of My Neighborhood

I missed my Friday MoFo post last week, so instead, I bring you...a Sunday MoFo post!

Two plump persimmons from the CSA and three key limes from a friend of our roommate.
They say there are two types of kitchen talents: cooking and baking. I am definitely way more blessed with the former talent than with the latter. I'm very much of the mentality that goes more like "A dash of this, a sprinkle of that, let me taste it, and oh, just a touch more salt and it'll be perfect" than anything so scientific and exact as baking.

But, thanks to our most recent CSA delivery + an invitation to a vegan wine & dessert party, I was motivated to take a stab at inventing my first ever cookie recipe. And what fruit or vegetable, you ask, could've possibly inspired me to do such a thing? Well, inside this week's CSA box, I discovered these reddish-orange, tomato-looking things that I couldn't identify. Turns out they were Fuyu persimmon fruits. I don't think I'd ever encountered a persimmon before, let alone eaten one, so I did some research and found out that there are two common varieties: the Fuyu and the Hachiya. There are also a bunch of other kinds, which you can read about here if you're curious. 

Even Nico was curious about these strange fruits.

According to my internet research and personal experimentation, I can tell you that the Fuyu is solid in composition (when ripe), subtly sweet, and can be eaten like an apple or used in recipes for dishes such as chutney, salads, and sorbets. It's shaped like a tomato. The Hachiya, apparently, tends to be astringent, but I think it becomes really sweet once it's ripe, and to be ripe, it must be extremely mushy/soft. This kind of persimmon has a more oblong, pepper-type shape. Based on my research, it seemed as though it was the Hachiya that had earned the superlative Most Likely To Be Baked, but I was adamant about baking with my Fuyus and nothing was going to stop me. We'd received some beautiful red barlett and comice pears in our CSA, as well, so I figured I could just make up for any missing sweetness with a CSA comice and a fig from our fig tree.

So, after much deliberation, internet research, and cookbook cross-referencing, this is what I came up with:

S p i c e d   P e r s i m m o n   &   P e a r   C o o k i e s

Wet Ingredients:

2 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and diced
1 comice pear, peeled and diced
1 fig's worth of fig filling
2/3 cup Earth Balance (vegan butter), softened at room temperature 
1 teaspoon almond extract
OPTIONAL: if you want moister cookies, also add 1/3 cup of soy milk

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups cane sugar (regular or brown; I used mostly regular and a little bit of brown because I ran out of regular. I think whatever will do.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
2/3 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Mix the dry ingredients, EXCEPT for the almonds, in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Fold in the nuts gradually.

Scoop small spoonfuls of batter onto a cookie tray. Be sure to leave ample room in between cookies, as these WILL expand. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They will likely not seem fully "done," but trust me, they are - vegan cookies tend to solidify well after the baking process, so you can safely stop baking them before they reach the point where they look browned. Allow to cool. For extra cooking cred, garnish with a cinnamon stick or two.

The result is a cookie that's at least somewhat nutritious, just the right amount of sweet, and nice and chewy. It's also a very autumnal treat, given its gingery spice and in-season ingredients.

Let's get a visual representation of that recipe, shall we?

Dicing the persimmons
What the inside of a Fuyu persimmon looks like up close
The peeling of the comice pear
Spiced Pear & Persimmon cookie batter! pre-almond-adding

The finished product
A glimpse at the innards of the cookie when it's broken in half

And Now, A Sneak Preview...

That's right. I didn't mention this before because I thought it'd be a bit overwhelming, but Nico and I discovered a mystery fruit #2, pictured below, during our walk today. It had been hanging precariously off a skinny tree branch in a residential part Silver Lake, alongside other fruits of its kind. Curiously, not all of the other fruits were this size; there were a few that were this ginormous citri-bulb size, but the rest resembled standard-sized lemons. I mean, is this just an overgrown lemon? Or is it the adult version of something else we've never encountered? Maybe it's a pomelo, if they even grow here in southern California?

At any rate, stay tuned for my next Vegan MoFo experiment, in which I will get to the bottom of this fruit and turn it into something delicious!  

Nico generously lent me her tennis ball so you could see the shocking size comparison.

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